The best period dramas on Netflix – from Bridgerton to Peaky Blinders, these are the must-see series streaming now

What better way to escape to another time and place than settling down to a period drama? Discover a new classic or rewatch an old favourite with Netflix’s collection of historical dramas.

By Katie Archer Published: 9 April 2021 - 11.31am
Netflix Bridgerton Rege-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor

Period dramas aren’t just the preserve of Sunday evenings on the BBC anymore – with Netflix, a whole host of historically-set series and films are available to watch any time you want to watch.

From bold new Netflix Originals series to classic TV dramas streaming on the service and some big-name films too, there’s something to tempt every period drama fan.

Here’s our round-up of the best titles currently available to stream on Netflix.

Bridgerton

It’s been Netflix’s biggest series ever, gripping viewers who wanted to know whether the Duke of Hastings and Daphne would finally get together, and who sharped-tongued social commentator Lady Whistledown really was.

The innovative use of modern music reimagined for string quartets, some very steamy sex scenes and a universal crush on Regé-Jean Page as the Duke all made the adaptation of Julia Quinn’s novels must-watch telly.

But while the good news is that Bridgerton will be back for series 2, the bad news is that Page’s time as the Duke was only ever scheduled for one series, as announced recently in a note by Lady Whistledown herself.

Still, viewers are eagerly anticipating Bridgerton's second season, which will see Anthony searching for a wife.

Bridgerton: Cast, characters and all those cover versions

The Crown

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown Netflix

The story of our Royal Family can be stranger than fiction at times, so it makes the perfect material for a period drama series.

Intrigue, wealth and scandal set against the political backdrop of the day have been a ratings hit for Netflix as viewers relive key moments for the Windsors in this fictionalised account.

The Royals themselves have been a little disapproving of the treatment of some historical events, but the idea that they might have been streaming The Crown along with the show’s fans – who include Hollywood stars as well as the general public – makes it even more tempting to watch.

So far, Olivia Colman, Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Imelda Staunton and Gillian Anderson have all joined the cast list to take on recognisable real-life characters.

The Crown: Famous faces and the true stories behind the drama

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Poldark

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark BBC

If period dramas are known for their brooding male leads and epic love stories, then Poldark is a classic of the genre.

The more recent remake of Winston Graham’s Cornish-set tale was a huge success for the BBC, and now you can relive all five series any time you like on Netflix.

Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson’s portrayal of Poldark and Demelza has gone down in TV history as one of the great screen romances and, although the series ended in 2019, it’s still as popular as ever with viewers.

Peaky Blinders

Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby BBC

Another BBC ratings hit, but this time with a very different feel to love stories and bonnets, Peaky Blinders has enjoyed international acclaim.

The series follows the Shelby clan, a crime family living in Birmingham after World War I who are known for their violence and ruthlessness.

A star cast features Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Sophie Rundle in some of the main roles, but there have also been appearances from Tom Hardy and Sam Claflin amongst others.

Many Peaky Blinders fans are itching to see the sixth and final series which is currently being completed after coronavirus delays, so while you wait to see how the story ends on BBC, catch up with all the action so far on Netflix.

Peaky Blinders: All you need to know about the final series

Anne with an ‘E’

Anne with an E Netflix

L.M. Montgomery's well-loved book series Anne of Green Gables was brought to life by Netflix when it launched a TV adaptation in 2017.

There are now three series of the show to enjoy, chronicling big-hearted orphan Anne’s adventures in the new home she shares with a spinster and her brother.

Set on Prince Edward Island in Canada, Anne with an 'E' features some breathtaking scenery and is a nostalgic trip down memory lane for viewers who have enjoyed the novels.

The Dig

The Dig Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes Netflix

One of Netflix’s big film launches for 2021, The Dig, has been shortlisted for five Baftas.

Starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and Lily James, it reimagines the 1939 Sutton Hoo excavation which uncovered a hugely significant Anglo-Saxon ship complete with a hoard of priceless buried treasure.

Mulligan plays Suffolk landowner Edith Pretty, who hires self-taught archaeologist Basil Brown to dig up the burial mounds on her estate. When he makes his remarkable find, they work together to keep the treasure trove safe in the face of outside interference and impending war.

Enola Holmes

Enola Holmes cast Netflix

A Sherlock Holmes spin-off is always a sure-fire hit (see also The Irregulars) and Enola Holmes offers a fresh take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuthing classic.

Enola is the teenage sister of Sherlock who uses her own detecting skills in her quest to track down her missing mother, outsmarting her brother in the process.

This Netflix Originals film stars Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown alongside Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin.

Cable Girls

Cable Girls Netflix

Spanish hit Cable Girls has proved just as popular on these shores, with five series of the Netflix Originals drama keeping viewers coming back for more.

Set in 1920s Madrid, it follows four women working at the National Telephone Company in a time of revolution for the country.

The second half of the fifth and final series aired in 2020, but if you haven’t seen Cable Girls yet, it’s well worth a Netflix binge.

Pride and Prejudice

Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice BBC

Think of classic period drama and most people will picture the BBC's 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

It made a star of Colin Firth in his breakout role as Mr Darcy, and the moment he emerged from the lake has gone down in TV history as one of the most famous scenes ever.

Pride and Prejudice also stars Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett, with Anna Chancellor, Alison Steadman, Julia Sawalha and Susannah Harker appearing in prominent roles.

If there’s one period drama you want to settle down with on a rainy weekend in lockdown, this is it.

The Alienist

Daniel Bruhl in The Alienist Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc

This period drama from Netflix, based on Caleb Carr's bestselling book of the same name, takes place in the New York City of 1896, where titular psychologist Laszlo Kreizler is enlisted by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to help catch a serial killer preying on homeless boys.

Moody city scenes and the grime of old New York combine for an atmospheric series that’s as creepy as any modern-day murder mystery.

Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning lead the star cast over two series.

The Queen’s Gambit

Anya Taylor-Joy in The Queen's Gambit Netflix

An unlikely lockdown TV hit that gripped the nation was a 1950s period drama about an orphaned girl addicted to prescription drugs who became an international chess champion.

It might not have seemed like the most obviously binge-worthy subject for a series, but Anya Taylor-Joy’s sparkling performance as chess prodigy Beth Harmon and the attention to detail of the Cold War era set had viewers hooked.

Look out for former Love Actually child star Thomas Brodie-Sangster in the strong cast, as well as a stand-out feature role for Marielle Heller as Beth’s adopted mother.

Alias Grace

Alias Grace Netflix

Margaret Atwood’s award-winning novel Alias Grace was developed into a single-series period drama by Netflix in 2017 and is still well worth a watch.

Set in 19th century Canada, it follows psychiatrist Simon Jordan’s interviews with convicted murderer Grace Marks as he tries to decide whether she should be pardoned on grounds of insanity.

The twisty plot keeps viewers guessing whether Grace really is insane, or if she has just seen a clever way out of her punishment.

Parade's End

Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall in Parade's End HBO

Before Benedict Cumberbatch became a Hollywood superstar, he featured alongside Rebecca Hall in this single-series 2012 adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s novel Parade’s End.

He played an aristocrat in a tangled relationship with his unfaithful wife and a young suffragette, with the cast also featuring Anne-Marie Duff, Miranda Richardson, Rupert Everett, Stephen Graham and Roger Allam.

At just three episodes long, it’s the perfect binge watch for a lazy afternoon.

The Irregulars

The cast of The Irregulars Netflix

Heading back to the familiar ground of Sherlock Holmes adaptations, new Netflix Originals release The Irregulars offers yet another take on Arthur Conan Doyle's sleuthing stories.

This latest visit to Victorian London sees a crew of misfits join Holmes and Dr Watson in their investigations of supernatural crimes.

As a new addition to the streaming service it has been doing well in the weekly UK popularity ratings since its launch.

Oktoberfest: Beer and Blood

Oktoberfest: Beer and Blood Netflix

Who doesn’t love Oktoberfest? Well Munich's annual beer festival might seem a little more sinister after you watch this historical drama.

Set in Munich in 1900, the series follows ambitious brewer Curt Prank as he sets out to dominate the Bavarian festival by building a huge beer hall.

But brutal tactics, scandal, and some power-hungry alliances are at odds with the cheery image of the bacchanalian celebration as Prank stops at nothing to reach his goal.

The English Game

The English Game Netflix

Julian Fellowes has been responsible for some of the best-loved period dramas on screen including Downton Abbey, so when he debuts a new show, you can trust it’ll be a good ‘un.

The English Game unites Edward Holcroft, Kevin Guthrie, Charlotte Hope and Craig Parkinson in a story set during the early days of modern association football in England.

Fellowes may not be known for his prowess in sporting dramas, but he’s on familiar territory as he tells the story of how football bridged a class divide as one working class and one upper class footballer navigate tumultuous times in 1870s Britain.

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